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Get a visa or go to jail – Thai Immigration




“Overstaying the tourist visa is punishable by both a jail term and fine under the Immigration Act.”

Tourists have 5 days to renew their visa or they could get arrested. The current visa amnesty ends on September 26 and there isn’t going to be another sudden announcement for another grace period, according to immigration officials. Those who overstay will face arrest and be deported back to their home countries.

Immigration officials estimate there are more than 150,000 foreign nationals who need to have their tourist visas renewed. Immigration Bureau deputy spokesperson Pakpong Sai-ubol told the Bangkok Post that people without a valid visa after September 26 could face jail..

“Overstaying the tourist visa is punishable by both a jail term and fine under the Immigration Act.”

Some foreigners who arrived on tourist visas earlier in the year have been in Thailand since late March when the Thai borders closed and many international flights were cancelled due to the world coronavirus pandemic. The visa amnesty was renewed twice since many people were unable to their home countries, but now the amnesty is coming to an end. And not without warning. The deadline to have visas renewed by is Saturday and Immigration officials say they will enforce the end of the amnesty.

“Those who don’t renew their visas by this Saturday will face a daily fine.”

Immigration police say they also plan to track down the tourists by using the addresses kept in the database. They will be arrested and face legal action and probably deportation and could be blacklisted from re-entering Thailand in the future. Officially, those who overstay their visa by 90 days are barred from entering Thailand for 1 year. Those who overstay more than 10 years are banned for life.

There were hopes that the end of the visa amnesty could co-incide with the introduction of the new Special Tourist Visa so that those either unable to leave, due to lack of flights or problems returning to their home countries, could ‘roll over’ onto the new 90 day visas. But that has not been announced at this stage.

Some officials at the Immigration Bureau are concerned many tourists won’t turn up to renew their visas, an anonymous source told the Bangkok Post. Some believe many tourists would rather stay in Thailand illegally than go back to their home countries where the virus is still spreading. They’re also worried tourists might also start working illegally in Thailand.

But for some foreigners, renewing their visa is complicated. Numerous stories have emerged online of people, in a variety of personal situations, being unable to qualify for any of the visas currently on offer post-September 26. The Thaiger has received over 150 such stories in the past 2 months and there is an entire Facebook page dedicated to foreigners, either currently in Thailand without a means to remain here, or others who want to return.

Need to stay? 

Talk with the local immigration office about options to stay in the country, or a reputable visa agent. (Be careful, there are some phoney ones out there.) The Thai Immigration Deputy Commander announced a few weeks ago that:

  • Tourists unable to return home after September 26 (the end of the tourist amnesty), due to sickness or are unable to fly, are to apply for an extension of their stay by applying at a Thai Immigration office and presenting their medical certificate certifying they are unable to travel at this time.
  • Those who are unable to return to their home country’s because of a lack of flights or any other circumstances must present a letter from their country’s embassy or consulate requesting that the foreigner can continue to temporarily stay in Thailand.

Tourists have 5 days to get a letter from their country’s embassy and get their visa renews.

  • The United States Embassy offers a letter of support, but warns that they cannot intervene with immigration decisions. To get a letter of support from the United States click HERE. 
  • The British Embassy says they can issue a letter to support applications to extend existing visas for British nationals. To get a letter, email or click HERE for more information.
  •  The Australian Embassy says tourists should depart Thailand before the end of the grace period or convert to a long term visa. The embassy will consider requests for a visa support letter due to postponed flights or for those transferring to a long term visa. Email or click HERE for more information.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Thai Immigration | 


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  1. Somsak

    Monday, September 21, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Tourists AGAIN just about tourists, nothing about non imm b visas. So its not illegal to overstay non imm visas okay!

  2. RA

    Monday, September 21, 2020 at 11:38 am

    Please note, Immigration will issue a deportation order, however, the offender may be required to pay for the air ticket and most likely be detained in the immigration detention facility until the ticket is purchased. Not positive about this, but it’s what I’ve heard. Best you get a visa ASAP or a flight out.

  3. Dirty Farang

    Monday, September 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Same in Europe. If you’re out of visa, you will go to jail and blacklisted.

    • Yogibaer

      Monday, September 21, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      In Europe you throw your Passport away and apply for Amnesty..?

      • Maag

        Monday, September 21, 2020 at 8:09 pm

        And get huge money , social help…… from these stupid countries !

      • Seawatch

        Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 5:45 pm

        It is helpful to declare not to speak any European language /no inglish, no no…./and just to repeat – Syria, Syria, Syria…
        Which many well prepared do. You will probably end up in a trendy quarter of Berlin, with an allowance, monthly metro card, one bedroom flat and a liberty not to respect local laws

    • barry

      Monday, September 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Not quite – Basic rule in the EU is “force majeure”
      Article 33 of the EU Visa Code states:

      “In case a visa holder who is already present on the territory of the Member States is unable to leave before the expiry of his visa for reasons of force majeure, humanitarian reasons or serious personal reasons, he should address the request for extension of the visa to the competent authorities of the Member State where he is present even if that is not the Member State whose consulate issued the visa.”

      The current Covid-19 situation falls under force majeure (which also covers more basic situations like weather conditions, strikes, yep…) meaning you can apply for a free visa extension in the country you are currently in, even if you’re currently not in the country, Schengen or not, that originally issued your visa. You will receive a visa extension for up to a maximum stay of 90 days in any 180-day period free of charge.

      But beyond this basic EU rule, given the rather specific nature of the current situation, most Shengen/ EU member states have actually made other, shall we say “humanitarian” provisions.

      There’s currently a general 6 month “amnesty” for long-stay visas expired since the start of the pandemic emergency in most (all?) EU countries, and also special procedures for short-stays visas.

      Other locales apply other regulations, usually offering more flexibilty than in normal times,

      I’d say the big divide is between countries clearly allowing foreigners to extend their stay legally (by exceptionally allowing them to get on some sort of stay permit or long stay visa, Indonesia for instance) while others consider this on a case by case basis, where foreigners have to actively justify their need to stay in the country.

  4. Perceville Smithers

    Monday, September 21, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Lock’em up in a crowded jail when they should be distancing themselves.

    • Maag

      Monday, September 21, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      perceville….you are a shame !

      • Perceville Smithers

        Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 1:13 am

        I should’ve made my post more clear but it’s not meant how you took it.

  5. Andrzej

    Monday, September 21, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    They want to bring max.1200 tourists/month on STV but remove 150,000 who are already here, spending money, supporting local businesses and people, and are Covid free. So it’ll take them around 10 years to get another ‘new’ 150,000 tourists. I can’t see any logic in it. But that’s Thailand. LoS, smiling not to you (you are dirty farang) but to your $$.

  6. karl

    Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 8:35 am

    I am curious about pictures, backpackers in handcuffs on their way to the Bangkok Hilton. Add some from March with the long queues in front of Immigration offices and no Thai competitor can keep up.

  7. Rinky Stingpiece

    Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 9:33 am

    It sounds like Immigration and Tourism departments are pulling in completely different directions.
    “Come to Thailand, jump through hoops, and spend lots of money” v “Overstay, and go to jail”.
    When stories about Thai tourism make Bloomberg news reports, the impact is beyond their control.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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